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Caring For The Vineyards

In April, my husband and I visited Napa Valley, California for the first time and as you would expect, we toured the vineyards and wineries of this region. The first thing you notice in Napa Valley is the beauty of the area – rolling hills covered with grape trellises, classic farm homes, two-lane country roads. It is stunning, simple natural agricultural land at its best.

As we learned about wine making, I was fascinated with the fragile, unpredictable process of growing the grapes. The soil pH must be neutral. The climate characteristics and land elevation must be matched to the specific type of grape. The risks to the crop include frost and pests.

All these variables determine the characteristics of the grape at harvest, and therefore, the quality of the wine. The grower must tenderly, lovingly care for the grapes or the wine is ruined.

“Making good wine is a skill. Fine wine is an art.”
~ Robert Mondavi

In leadership, the development of our people is also a fragile, unpredictable process that requires tender, loving care. Every person is unique in their talents, their experience, their perspective, just as the many varieties of grapes.

Every person thrives in different conditions, the climate and soils of their work environment. Every person has been shaped by the seasons of their life – abundant crop years and years of frost and pests.

Are you thinking of your team members this way? Do you think of them as a special, one of a kind, individual? Are you getting to know them well so that you understand their talents, their experience, and their perspective? How much time did you spend with them this week?

Knowing your people well is essential to growing them as leaders. I often say “I must know you to grow you.” If I don’t invest time in knowing you, I will not know how best to coach and develop you. If you don’t share with me your unique self, your perspectives, and your ambition, I will not be able to help you accomplish your goals.

Just as rich, nutrient-filled soil yields good grapes, it is the rich, personal relationships with the people on our teams that yield the best teamwork and the best performance results. Are you investing in your teams to improve the crop yield – the results?

“Making wine is like having children; you love them all, but boy, are they different.”
~ Bunny Finkelstein Co-owner of Judd’s Hill Winery

Here is my challenge to you. Over the next three months, spend one-on-one time with each person on your team dedicated personal time where you listen to them, understand them better, and respond to their questions.

You ask the questions and you listen carefully to the answers: How are you doing? What is going on outside of work? What are your challenges at work? What can I do to help you overcome obstacles and reach your goals? Where do you see yourself one year from now?

At the end of the conversation, choose one action item to do after the conversation that will demonstrate your care and concern for that individual. Then watch for the healthy fruit of your efforts.

0 Responses

  1. Hi Cheryl,
    I want to thank you for developing a website dedicated to Leadership. It is something that I have been looking for and I am really looking forward to reading your blogs on a regular basis. It will help me grow as a leader, and also give me great information to pass on to my District Managers and Managers to help grow them as well. I relate to this article because I have always said that at Popeyes, we are in the people business, we just sell chicken. As in any business, the people (guests and team members) is what we are all about; the product that we are selling simply changes from brand to brand.
    Thanks again!!

    1. David,
      Thank you for your feedback. I hope that these blogs will help you develop your own point of view on leadership. It is so important to know why you lead and what values or principles will guide your approach. I often say that the people we lead already know our motive, so it would be a good idea for us to know too:-) Feel free to suggest topics that you would like me to write about. And yes, its all about the people!

  2. Cheryl, love this post, the focus on relationship, and your mantra, “I must know you to grow you.” The way I’ve said for it years after learning it from the Kellogg Foundation is “relationships are primary, all else is derivative.” Thanks for sharing; look forward to future insights and posts.


  3. Hi Cheryl –

    I love your quote “I must know you to grow you”. I think I will use it in a blog post I recently wrote about engaging our employees. Here’s the post:


    I completely agree with your philosophy that the best leaders know and treat their people like the passionate wine-makers treat their precious grapes.

    However, not all leaders make the time in our 24/7 work culture to do this. I would be curious about your thoughts on how we get the mindset shift required for leaders to invest the time in getting to know their people and what tools we can equip our leaders with to do this. After all, we are equipping marketers with tools and technology to “personalize” their messages to consumers.


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